One of the most memorable lines in the 1967 classic film “The Graduate” comes when a family friend tells a young Dustin Hoffman’s character: “There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it.”
Two decades after the movie’s release, Jack Thompson found out he was spot-on.
He started Fiesta Plastics in 1988 with already 30 years of experience in the industry, purchasing a small injection-molding machine that paid off so well within a few months that he bought three more.
Today, Fiesta Plastics powers 18 injection-molding machines ranging in size from 25 tons to 650 tons in a 20,000-square foot factory near Dobson Road and Main Street in Mesa.
Thompson is now retired but Fiesta Plastics is still a family-run and family-owned business with Operations Manager Mike Greathouse at the helm.
“I’m as close to family without being blood-related,” he said.
“The owner still takes us to lunch and makes sure we’re doing our job. He likes to come in and check out everything. We have one press that he can still work on since it’s very basic. We have a lot of new customers so sometimes he’ll meet and greet them.”
Fiesta Plastics’ 35 employees who work in three shifts days a week, 24 hours a day.
Greenhouse explained that injection molding involves “taking pelletized plastic, melting it and then injecting it under extremely high pressure into a steel mold.
“When that mold is closed, there’s actually water circulating through it which sets the part. After that cooling cycle is done, the molds will open up and the parts will come out.”
The company’s primary products include construction and safety equipment, art supplies, bill accepter components for vending and casino machines and outdoor courts for basketball and volleyball.
“We have over 1,500 individual parts we produce here,” said Greathouse. “That includes components, not necessarily an entire project.”
All the manufacturing is done in their shop.
“We can build molds basically from a napkin drawing of an idea all the way up to mass production,” explained Greathouse. “We can develop the parts, making it easier to be injection molded.
“Usually, a transition from a 3D drawing on a computer would go to a 3D printing but there are things that can make injection molding easier, faster and we can help consult with that and give guidance because most of our customers have an idea but they don’t know how to execute it. That’s where we can really help them.
“We do almost all plastics with the exception of silicone. They’re actually developing silicones that can be injection molded. Most silicones are a two-part like an epoxy almost. But they’re developing some where we can use those for injection molding processes.”
While there are other plastic molders in the Valley, Fiesta Plastics specializes in custom injection molding.
“Some of the other molders may be focused on medical or they might only be moldering for proprietary products for their own brand,” said Greathouse.
“We have open availability for customers to come in if, let’s say, their molder doesn’t have the capacity or time to run their products. We have that time. We’ll hire more people to make sure we can keep up with production.”
If the order is urgent, many times it can be processed the next day.
“We like to take care of our customers as much as we can,” said Greenhouse. “But our lead time is usually 2-3 weeks.”
Greathouse started in the business making urethane molds but said, “I was always fascinated by injection molding because of the rapid speed, the amount of volume of products that can be made.
“In 2014, I joined up with Fiesta Plastics and started as a driver and worked my way all of the way up. I have a hat in every department which I like. It keeps me busy.”
He said the best way to learn the business is with hands-on training.
“We spend a lot of time with our quality team, making sure they’re comfortable and know what they’re doing because, in the end, they’re the first line of quality.
“Our operators make every part. They see them all. It’s really fun to teach people. You can’t go on YouTube and learn how to do this job well. You need to be in the shop and give us the time to teach you.”
Information: fiestaplastics.com ′